create. share. enjoy. (Part 1)

create. share. enjoy. (Part 1)

You can now choose what parameters to automate, such as changing the tremolo intensity on a synth track.



Apple has built its legacy on creating products that help us do things better, faster, and easier. GarageBand has certainly made the world of music creation and recording accessible to all. With GarageBand ’08, Apple takes another leap forward, adding advanced features that are typically only found in pro recording apps, while maintaining GarageBand’s characteristic ease of use. It’s a delicate balancing act - and it does come with a few hiccups - but overall, the updated version truly rocks.


Get the Best Sound. For those familiar with recording apps, GarageBand ’08 includes some new features to help you get the best recordings and mixes possible. For starters, the app now supports 24-bit audio quality, though you’ll need a compatible 24-bit-capable audio interface to attain the high resolution. We love multi-take recording, which allows you to record a section of your song over and over, capturing multiple takes of your performance until you get it right. It works without a hitch, and it’s truly a lifesaver when you’re a little slow on the Record button.


Our favorite new feature is automation curves, which provide more precise mixing control. Like volume and pan curves, you can now vary instrument and effects parameters, plus tempo and pitch on the Master track, over time. For example, to change a synth’s sound, you could alter the parameters of its sound generator progressively between a verse and chorus, or set a delay to occur only at the end of a note. However, the execution can get a bit clunky if you’ve got a lot going on, since you can only view one curve at a time per track.


The arrangement features make building and rearranging songs simple; just define arrangement regions (such as an intro, verse, and chorus) and drag and drop them to rearrange sections - all tracks within that region will follow. You can also duplicate an arrangement region by Option-dragging to quickly build a song. The Visual EQ provides an easy way to boost and cut frequencies, though without a bandwidth control, you can’t notch out narrow bands of undesirable frequencies without taking down some of the desirable ones with it.


Live chord display shows the name of any chord you play in a Software Instrument track. Play three notes of a chord and it’s pretty darn accurate; play two notes and it isn’t always as smart. New mastering effects simplify the process of making your mix sound radio-ready, and some presets made our tracks sizzle. There’s also a new instrument tuner, which works well, and a Print command that lets you print the musical notation of a Software Instrument track. And if you need help in the vocal department, Apple’s new Voices Jam Pack (an extra $99) adds soloists, backup singers, and choirs to your projects.


Then there’s Magic GarageBand, a new feature intended for GarageBand beginners that allows you to select a style of music from nine options, audition a backing band, and have a musical accompaniment ready to support whatever it is that you play or do. We found that Magic GarageBand offers more form than function - which is a nice way to say it got boring pretty quickly. But for kids or those new to recording, it’s an amusing ball of yarn to play with for a little while.


Despite GarageBand ’08’s advancements, there are some setbacks. The app requires more computing iron than previous versions: Sessions that played fine in GarageBand 3 (the version in iLife ’06) choked a bit in GarageBand ’08, and changing certain instruments and loops caused longer wait times. Also, files saved in GarageBand ’08 won’t work in earlier versions, so forget musical collaboration unless everyone in your workgroup upgrades.


The Bottom Line. If you’ve got a powerful enough Mac, GarageBand ’08 is a worthy step up from its predecessor. The app contains some potent new features that truly let you take control of your music, at a price that simply can’t be beat.




PRICE: $79 as part of iLife ’08; free with a new Mac

REQUIREMENTS: G4, G5, or Intel Mac; Mac OS 10.4.9 or later; 512MB RAM (1GB recommended); 3GB free disk space

24-bit audio support. Multi-take recording helps capture that perfect performance. Automation provides better mixing control.

Eats more processor power than its predecessor. Some performance hiccups. No backward compatibility.



Read the conclusion to our coverage of iLife and iWork '08 here.




+ Add a Comment


Where is the rest of the iDVD review? You started it on the second page, right after the iMovie review, but the third page starts with iPhoto. So what happened to the rest of IDVD? What rating did you give it, and the rest of the scoop? Please remedy this.



Automation is a major addition to GarageBand. This feature wasn't even available in Logic Express the last time I checked (just Logic Pro). It even works with plug-in software instruments, though it's somewhat tedious to find the parameter you want. Unfortunately, it seems you still can't assign parameters to midi controls, or record automation live.

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